The Invisible Naked City, or, The Dirty Story I Wish Calvino Had Written

invisible naked city illustration by Toeken
illustration by Toeken

Traveling south, you arrive at the city of Sex. Your road into the city is lined with cypress trees, their branches weaving together in a fragrant tunnel over your head; the ground is soft beneath your feet. Your road converges with others, thousands of them, and on your way to the marketplace you talk with the other travelers about how they arrived: the boulevard lit with hanging lanterns, the narrow trail through the forest, the caravan of traders and traveling musicians, the shimmering red bridge, the tunnel they clawed from out of the prison.

In the marketplace there are storytellers on every corner. Cut velvet is sold there, and rhinestones, and old photographs, and spices of every variety: cardamom, sweet basil, anise, vanilla, pepper in white and red and black. The spice vendors make proprietary blends, and argue hotly over them. Nothing essential is sold in the city: you can find spun sugar here, and chocolates dusted with gold, but must go elsewhere for bread. And yet its visitors find themselves sickening, withering, without the perfume they find here; the jeweled sandals; the jeweled collar; the mulled wine; the crimson sash embroidered with silver thread; the blend of spices from their favored vendor, the one under the silk canopy of cobalt blue. Even the absence of hunger is hunger here, and travelers drug themselves with pastilles and creams, not to stave off hunger, but to spark it. They will save their earnings for months for a visit to the city, and go without bread, and consider it a bargain.

*****

Thus begins my story for Persistent Visions magazine, The Invisible Naked City, or, The Dirty Story I Wish Calvino Had Written. To read more, read the rest of the story. Enjoy! (Illustration by Toeken for Persistent Visions. Content note: explicit sex, including kinky sex; brief passing mentions of suicide and murder.)

The Invisible Naked City, or, The Dirty Story I Wish Calvino Had Written
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The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 6

Content note: fantasy/horror violence, and plenty of it. Also some references to sexism, misogyny, misogynist violence, and some sexual content.

In response to this post on Facebook, from dating coach Jonathon Aslay:

How a Woman Becomes Irresistible To a Man… She chooses to set high standards for herself. She’s clear on what she wants. She knows the value of friendship before sex. She comes from a place of gratitude (not expectations). She is confident and willing to ask a man out on a date because she knows a relationship is a two way street. She demonstrates trust and respect by accepting him for who he is. She’s in no hurry to get to the destination. She can take of herself, she doesn’t need a man. She shows up interesting and interested. She comes from a place of compassion (not entitlement). Lastly, she knows how to inspire a man, because she leads by example. Did I miss anything?

Facebook feminists bring you: The Irresistible Woman. Part 6 of a series. All micro-stories reprinted with permission of the authors, credited and linked to (or not) as they requested.

DISCLAIMER: References to violence, death, destruction, physical torment, psychological torment, supernatural torment, world domination, eternal nightmares, or the warping of the entire space-time continuum to exact revenge on one sexist jerk, are all intended as metaphor. These are fictional expressions of rage and mockery, aimed at the impossible, contradictory, ever-shifting standards of female desirability, and at the barrage of advice given to women about how to meet those standards. None of the authors actually want to do these things, or think they should happen. No, really.

*****

In response to someone named Aaron, who called the others in the thread “killjoys”:

The irresistible woman kills all your joy. –Yvonne Rathbone

The irresistible woman kills all joy and then reignites it with her flaming wings, but not Aaron’s joy, never Aaron’s. The irresistible woman will leave Aaron without joy forever. -Amy Lou Renner

The irresistible woman would never kill your joy, for she needs it alive in order to continue feeding on it. Rather, she keeps it under lock and key, visiting when she needs to siphon screams from its pulsating form, promising only what she must in order to ensure that it remains alive still, throbbing, nectar-sweet. You will never see it again, but she will give it hope, for it is foolish joy, without forethought. -Gertrud

She is known by many names, all sobriquets. For every moniker by which she is known, there are always three more to be discovered. None are her True Name, though, for to know that would be to stare into the Abyss and know madness, and to speak it would undo the Cosmos. –Scott David Weitzenhoffer

The irresistible woman is not a person at all, but a force like gravity. Or magnetism. All will love her & despair, for to deny her does not change the laws of physics. –Kassiane

The irresistible woman doesn’t eat your food. She dines on pulsars and shipwrecks. –Yvonne Rathbone

She not only puts up with you. She opens up with you. Opens so far that you see vast plains and stretches of sky, and stars stretching for infinite distance. You fall in. Before you know it, you find yourself on a strange new world, inhabited by creatures made only of teeth and talon, with no regard for the silly plaything that you call “life.”

Desperately you try to cling to the last vestiges of humanity, recalling your shape, your skin, your name. Nothing. You are one of them now. -Gertrud

Her straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. She drinks your milkshake!

::slurping noises::

She drinks it up! . -Gertrud

And they’re like…
“Oh, God, somebody, please, help me!”

Damn right, it’s better than yours.

She can teach you to feed on the souls of the living, but she’ll have to charge. -Kitt McKenzie Continue reading “The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 6”

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 6

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 5

Content note: fantasy/horror violence, and plenty of it. Also some references to sexism, misogyny, misogynist violence, and some sexual content.

In response to this post on Facebook, from dating coach Jonathon Aslay:

How a Woman Becomes Irresistible To a Man… She chooses to set high standards for herself. She’s clear on what she wants. She knows the value of friendship before sex. She comes from a place of gratitude (not expectations). She is confident and willing to ask a man out on a date because she knows a relationship is a two way street. She demonstrates trust and respect by accepting him for who he is. She’s in no hurry to get to the destination. She can take of herself, she doesn’t need a man. She shows up interesting and interested. She comes from a place of compassion (not entitlement). Lastly, she knows how to inspire a man, because she leads by example. Did I miss anything?

Facebook feminists bring you: The Irresistible Woman. Part 5 of a series. All micro-stories reprinted with permission of the authors, credited and linked to (or not) as they requested.

DISCLAIMER: References to violence, death, destruction, physical torment, psychological torment, supernatural torment, world domination, eternal nightmares, or the warping of the entire space-time continuum to exact revenge on one sexist jerk, are all intended as metaphor. These are fictional expressions of rage and mockery, aimed at the impossible, contradictory, ever-shifting standards of female desirability, and at the barrage of advice given to women about how to meet those standards. None of the authors actually want to do these things, or think they should happen. No, really.

*****

The irresistable woman only wears short skirts and long jackets, and has the theme song from “Chuck” in her head right now. She also has the intersect, and is even now foiling a nefarious terrorist plot while being charmingly unaware of how hard she is falling for you. Because you are a man. A studly, studly man, who has the power to 3D print an a la carte woman who strangely lacks any dimension that doesn’t point directly to you. -Emily Moskal

Somehow you manage to obtain one of those 3D printers that prints cartilage, prints meat. You program it painstakingly, designing her in a modeling program, equal parts Angelina Jolie and Marilyn Monroe, long legs and a round bottom, not *too* well endowed up top, but ample enough. You make her eyes blue, but with just a hint of green around the pupils. Her fingernails, you think, are the crowning touch. So delicate, so perfect. You. You created her in your mind and bring her forth with a touch.

You load the printer with the flesh gel and set it into motion with the click of a mouse, close out the progress window and leave. The suspense is too great.

You come back when the process is complete, a few dollars poorer and a few beers heavier, proud of yourself for respectfully not bragging about her when she isn’t even born. You open the door, throw the keys into the bowl, and notice an immediate metallic, salty odor.

You don’t know what it is, actually. Not blood, you’d recognize that. Something else. The carpet squishes under your shoe — you can’t feel it but you can hear it, a slippery squelch. You wonder for a moment if another pipe has broken, flooding your apartment with the upstairs neighbor’s bathwater, but when you flick the light on you see the truth.

She is here. She is everywhere.

Flesh spun like cotton candy or spiderwebs, over the walls, bunched in the corners, eyes and orifices, mouths, tongues, reasonably-sized breasts. It spreads like a colony of slime molds throughout the apartment.

Some yellowish fluid saturates the rugs and furniture; amniotic fluid, lymph, you have no idea how to tell which. The horror of it is overwhelming.

You stagger backward toward the door, doorknob banging painfully against your back. You reach for it, twist, feel the latch disengage but the door will not move.

You turn, and see that she has spread over it, gossamer tissue creeping, thickening, forming something. A knot of flesh, a *face*, lips parting in a sweet, sensual smile. A perfect, upturned nose, a beauty mark placed just so on that youthful but chiseled cheek.

Her eyes open. They are blue, with a little green just around the pupil. She is everything you asked for, and so much more.

You look into her many eyes and you love her. You love her so much. Her little fingers pluck at your sleeve, demanding you remove your battered Steelers jacket, and beckon you toward the bedroom.

She does not speak — you never intended her to do that — but you can sense it. How she wants to show you how grateful she is for her existence. Without you, she would be nothing. She loves you. And she needs you.

She needs you *so much.* –Amanda Gannon

In response to someone named James, saying they loved the thread: Continue reading “The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 5”

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 5

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 4

Content note: fantasy/horror violence, and plenty of it. Also some references to sexism, misogyny, misogynist violence, and some sexual content.

In response to this post on Facebook, from dating coach Jonathon Aslay:

How a Woman Becomes Irresistible To a Man… She chooses to set high standards for herself. She’s clear on what she wants. She knows the value of friendship before sex. She comes from a place of gratitude (not expectations). She is confident and willing to ask a man out on a date because she knows a relationship is a two way street. She demonstrates trust and respect by accepting him for who he is. She’s in no hurry to get to the destination. She can take of herself, she doesn’t need a man. She shows up interesting and interested. She comes from a place of compassion (not entitlement). Lastly, she knows how to inspire a man, because she leads by example. Did I miss anything?

Facebook feminists bring you: The Irresistible Woman. Part 4 of a series. All micro-stories reprinted with permission of the authors, credited and linked to (or not) as they requested.

DISCLAIMER: References to violence, death, destruction, physical torment, psychological torment, supernatural torment, world domination, eternal nightmares, or the warping of the entire space-time continuum to exact revenge on one sexist jerk, are all intended as metaphor. These are fictional expressions of rage and mockery, aimed at the impossible, contradictory, ever-shifting standards of female desirability, and at the barrage of advice given to women about how to meet those standards. None of the authors actually want to do these things, or think they should happen. No, really.

*****

In response to the previous poem, and someone telling Amanda Gannon they wished they had an Internet to give her:

I already own the internet, Peter. My shadowy tentacles reach into 2.8 billion homes worldwide. I am always watching. Even when I am asleep. I have lost count of my eyes. –Amanda Gannon

She listens as only she can, hearing everything and collecting fragments of sound to weave together into her magnum opus, a song that nobody will ever be able to remember. It will be transcendent beauty so great that the strongest shall fall to their knees and weep, spanning every experience in human history from the sacred to the profane.

This will be the song that calls the cosmos back from its outward flight, collapsing it into a single proto-universe again, before releasing it to create a new universe. Perhaps this time it will be acceptable.

She does not remember how many times she has done this. -Peter Eng

Actually, she has a Puckish sense of humor. She took it from Robin Goodfellow, along with several other things he wouldn’t need any longer. -Peter Eng

She has Puck’s humor. She keeps it in a jar at the back of her fridge, which she keeps meaning to clean out. –Yvonne Rathbone

The irresistible woman has transformed her skin into a superconductive ceramic shell. The cold, the cold, you touch her skin and the cold feels like burning, like acid, like inconsolable grief. Her skin burns off your fingerprints. You are no longer yourself, you will never again be yourself. You can recognize the other men who have touched her, by the smooth scarring on their fingers, their faces, their hearts.

You do not leave a mark on her. None of you has ever left a mark on her. None of you ever will.

The irresistible woman has transformed her skin into a superconductive ceramic shell. The transformation on the cellular level was torture; her screams were the cries of the phoenix, the newly-born spider devouring the body of its mother, the Christ hanging himself on the cross and crying out in despair, “Why have I forsaken myself?” When it was over at last, she was left with one small piece of her human skin, her own index fingertip, set in a locket. She is saving it for her daughter. –Greta Christina

“The irresistible woman is clear on what she wants, but has no expectations and accepts men as they are. She has high standards, but has no sense of entitlement. She has no need for a man, but cares deeply about being irresistible to them.”

The irresistible woman hears the contradictions, and laughs — a harpy shriek she immediately muffles into her elbow, for fear of giving the ending away. They think the contradictions will baffle her, frighten her, weaken her, send her into despair. They have no idea.

The irresistible woman takes the stage, strips, scratches her face with her perfect nails. She writes the contradictions on parchment in her blood, wraps it around her naked body like a shroud. The parchment twists at her command, and she twists along with it, her body bending, stretching, contorting into a Moebius strip, slicing itself into twisted loops that interlock. Her audience looks on: entertained, then captivated, then gradually paralyzed as the realization sinks in.

The words she spoke to the parchment were spoken at the same time to their brains. Their neurons, axons, dendrites, have twisted inside their skulls. It happened bit by bit, like the heat under a pot of water gradually boiling the live frog. The knots inside their brains are bleeding.

They had no idea.

She unwraps her body with a snap, eases out of the parchment. She knows her way out. She slips into a terrycloth bathrobe stolen from a hotel. She exits through the gift shop. –Greta Christina

Let us tell the story of what happened in the hotel, when she stole the bathrobe. Continue reading “The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 4”

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 4

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 3

Content note: fantasy/horror violence, and plenty of it. Also some references to sexism, misogyny, misogynist violence, and some sexual content.

In response to this post on Facebook, from dating coach Jonathon Aslay:

How a Woman Becomes Irresistible To a Man… She chooses to set high standards for herself. She’s clear on what she wants. She knows the value of friendship before sex. She comes from a place of gratitude (not expectations). She is confident and willing to ask a man out on a date because she knows a relationship is a two way street. She demonstrates trust and respect by accepting him for who he is. She’s in no hurry to get to the destination. She can take of herself, she doesn’t need a man. She shows up interesting and interested. She comes from a place of compassion (not entitlement). Lastly, she knows how to inspire a man, because she leads by example. Did I miss anything?

Facebook feminists bring you: The Irresistible Woman. Part 3 of a series. All micro-stories reprinted with permission of the authors, credited and linked to (or not) as they requested.

DISCLAIMER: References to violence, death, destruction, physical torment, psychological torment, supernatural torment, world domination, eternal nightmares, or the warping of the entire space-time continuum to exact revenge on one sexist jerk, are all intended as metaphor. These are fictional expressions of rage and mockery, aimed at the impossible, contradictory, ever-shifting standards of female desirability, and at the barrage of advice given to women about how to meet those standards. None of the authors actually want to do these things, or think they should happen. No, really.

*****

The irresistible woman lies
soft upon the ground,
her body a quaking monument
thighs shiver-shifting,
perfect in herself,
the arch of spine
arch of rib
arch of breast.
red lips parted,
gasping at the thin air.
If you believe
that a woman’s life is performance
it is easily mistaken for
a forward gesture of submission,
an invitation not given,
but begging to be taken. Continue reading “The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 3”

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 3

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 2

Content note: fantasy/horror violence, and plenty of it. Also some references to sexism, misogyny, misogynist violence, and some sexual content.

In response to this post on Facebook, from dating coach Jonathon Aslay:

How a Woman Becomes Irresistible To a Man… She chooses to set high standards for herself. She’s clear on what she wants. She knows the value of friendship before sex. She comes from a place of gratitude (not expectations). She is confident and willing to ask a man out on a date because she knows a relationship is a two way street. She demonstrates trust and respect by accepting him for who he is. She’s in no hurry to get to the destination. She can take of herself, she doesn’t need a man. She shows up interesting and interested. She comes from a place of compassion (not entitlement). Lastly, she knows how to inspire a man, because she leads by example. Did I miss anything?

Facebook feminists bring you: The Irresistible Woman. Part 2 of a series. All micro-stories reprinted with permission of the authors, credited and linked to (or not) as they requested.

DISCLAIMER: References to violence, death, destruction, physical torment, psychological torment, supernatural torment, world domination, eternal nightmares, or the warping of the entire space-time continuum to exact revenge on one sexist jerk, are all intended as metaphor. These are fictional expressions of rage and mockery, aimed at the impossible, contradictory, ever-shifting standards of female desirability, and at the barrage of advice given to women about how to meet those standards. None of the authors actually want to do these things, or think they should happen. No, really.

*****

She’s got that red lip classic thing that you like. She has had that thing since its conception. She is ageless and immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings, and she consumes the souls of any man foolishly drawn to her bright colors. Red is also the color of blood. Beyond it, darkness looms. -Abigail Pritchard

She never goes out of style. She never goes out of style. –Amanda Gannon

When she goes crashing down, she comes back every time. She cannot be destroyed, no matter how the innocent may try. -Abigail Pritchard

Maybe I’m being too literal but I always thought what makes a woman irresistible is the paralytic venom she injects into her prey. -Kylen Knapp

. . . You weren’t supposed to tell our secret. Now they know.

Which is fine, I guess. It’s not like there’s any way to prevent us sneaking in through your windows or under your closet door, or through the floorboards. It’s not like we aren’t always there, waiting.

You have to sleep sometime. Everyone has to sleep sometime.

Except us. One of our heads always stays awake. –Amanda Gannon Continue reading “The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 2”

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 2

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 1

Content note: fantasy/horror violence, and plenty of it. Also some references to sexism, misogyny, misogynist violence, and some sexual content.

I have seen many fascinating responses to sexist dating advice. I have seen feminists respond with humor, with rage, with snark, with dismissal, with carefully patient and even empathetic education, with sarcasm that could wither a Venus fly trap.

But until May 14, I had never before seen feminists respond to sexist dating advice with a impromptu collaborative outpouring of fantasy horror micro-fiction.

In response to this post on Facebook, from dating coach Jonathon Aslay:

How a Woman Becomes Irresistible To a Man… She chooses to set high standards for herself. She’s clear on what she wants. She knows the value of friendship before sex. She comes from a place of gratitude (not expectations). She is confident and willing to ask a man out on a date because she knows a relationship is a two way street. She demonstrates trust and respect by accepting him for who he is. She’s in no hurry to get to the destination. She can take of herself, she doesn’t need a man. She shows up interesting and interested. She comes from a place of compassion (not entitlement). Lastly, she knows how to inspire a man, because she leads by example. Did I miss anything?

Facebook feminists bring you: The Irresistible Woman. All micro-stories reprinted with permission of the authors, credited and linked to (or not) as they requested.

DISCLAIMER: References to violence, death, destruction, physical torment, psychological torment, supernatural torment, world domination, eternal nightmares, or the warping of the entire space-time continuum to exact revenge on one sexist jerk, are all intended as metaphor. These are fictional expressions of rage and mockery, aimed at the impossible, contradictory, ever-shifting standards of female desirability, and at the barrage of advice given to women about how to meet those standards. None of the authors actually want to do these things, or think they should happen. No, really.

***

She uses the sustentacular cells in her sinus cavities to manipulate local magnetic fields. –Yvonne Rathbone

She keeps watch in the night, in the shadows. Many-faceted eyes guard the tender sleep of innocent paramours. If she doesn’t hear that scratching sound, it must not be there. If she doesn’t hear that scratching sound, there is no one there. If she does not hear any scratching sound, there is no one anywhere. An irresistible woman never leaves crumbs in the bed. -Ashley Protagonist

She keeps her mandibles sharp and shiny. -Amy Lou Renner

She knows where her man left his keys, his coffee mug, his bones. Her chitinous endoskeleton will never be found. She uses Groupon to pay less for spa days. -Ashley Protagonist

She doesn’t worry about fine lines or wrinkles, because her skin is only a temporary raiment, a mass-produced bauble from a cheap conveyor belt manned only by sighs and deflated ambition. She doesn’t need night cream. She does not worry about her freckles. Her beauty is on the inside. -Ashley Protagonist

She turns herself inside out when the moon is dark. –Yvonne Rathbone

She doesn’t dwell on failed projects, on misplaced hopes. She starts fresh, shedding her old wishes along with her broken or dulled incisors. She always has what she needs, and she always uses what she has. -Ashley Protagonist

All beauty is on her inside. She devours beautiful things with hunger. Men, men are such pretty creatures, she says, tired of the way our culture’s idea of “beautiful” is firmly bound up with ideas of the feminine. More for me, she sighs, and spreads her mouthparts wide. –Amanda Gannon Continue reading “The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 1”

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 1